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The deceptive success of e-mobility

In the past few months it looked as if Germany would still make it to the electric car nation in the near future.

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The deceptive success of e-mobility

In the past few months it looked as if Germany would still make it to the electric car nation in the near future. In 2022, many Germans bought an electric vehicle for the first time. According to the Federal Motor Transport Authority, 470,559 purely electric cars were newly registered, as well as 362,093 plug-in hybrids. It can be said that every third vehicle sold in 2022 was electrified. That's something to be proud of. It can go on like this.

But it won't. Because the general conditions for electromobility have deteriorated rapidly. On the one hand, because the state subsidy for the purchase of the vehicles has been significantly reduced since the beginning of the year. The great demand for e-cars at the end of the year was therefore more of a kind of sale than the breakthrough of the e-car by the Germans.

And so the first industry experts are already guessing that the number of registrations could almost be halved this year - which would be a major setback for the German traffic turnaround.

However, interest is also likely to wane because, in addition to the disappearance of premiums, purchase prices are also rising sharply. Although combustion engines are also becoming more expensive at the time of hyperinflation, electric cars are much more so. In addition, there are virtually no battery-powered vehicles for average earners. One looks in vain in the range between 20,000 and 30,000 euros.

There are some small cars that move in this area. But these are city cars for short distances. They are unsuitable for families or long-distance journeys at the latest.

E-cars only really become suitable for everyday use in the upper-class segment. Porsche, Mercedes, Audi and BMW are now building very good electric vehicles. But entry-level prices from 80,000 euros can only be financed by a fraction of consumers. A wide electric turn is impossible.

Of course, the so-called mass manufacturers now also have e-vehicles on offer. But it doesn't matter whether it's VW, Nissan, Opel or Renault: either their vehicles cost far more than 40,000 euros (usually more like 50,000) or the models fail in everyday tests - unfortunately both are often the case.

Then there is electricity, which is becoming more and more expensive. Even considering the still high costs of petrol and diesel, the fuel cost advantage for e-models is disappearing. And while fuel prices are already falling again, the price of electricity in Germany has only known one direction for decades.

With the current energy crisis, we have a special situation. Firstly, nobody knows when the geopolitical situation will calm down again, and secondly, it is also clear that energy prices are unlikely to fall in the medium term even after the end of the Ukraine war. The renewable energy yield is too weak and the gas prices that we will pay to Qatar or Norway in the future are too high.

So what to do? Capping purchase premiums is a half-hearted measure. Especially since the lucrative company car tax scheme remains in place. Means: The high earners continue to get the same state support for their mostly very large and expensive cars.

Normal and low earners, on the other hand, have to be content with lower subsidy rates, although vehicles and electricity are becoming more and more expensive. Electric mobility for the masses remains unrealistic.

But maybe that's how it's supposed to be. It's no secret that individual mobility is a thorn in the side of the Greens in particular. It would certainly be fine with them if the general public no longer owned a car at all. Instead, car sharing, bicycles, trains and public transport are politically favoured.

But apart from the fact that most of these options are already overloaded, such a plan would be far too short-sighted. For the urban population - mainly Green voters - it may seem okay to be less individually mobile. Having your own car will remain indispensable for people in rural areas in the coming decades.

What remains is the call to the market. Higher CO2 taxes on petrol and diesel could mean that people stop buying combustion engines. In order to then bring cars to consumers on a large scale, the car companies would be forced to expand their e-car development and production at full speed.

The result: more cars at lower prices. Electromobility for the masses. That would be the breakthrough.

"Everything on shares" is the daily stock exchange shot from the WELT business editorial team. Every morning from 7 a.m. with our financial journalists. For stock market experts and beginners. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Amazon Music and Deezer. Or directly via RSS feed.

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